Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Scenes from Silver Creek: The Pool

There was no public pool in Silver Creek and I never know anybody who had one well enough to get invited to their house. We also lacked the old swimming hole, a nearby lake, or anyplace else to take a dip. Silver Creek had stopped being much of a creek long before there was any real town. But Tiny Muddy Gulch Out By the Burger King is a bad name for a town.

But there was a pool at the high school, just down the block from where we lived. We lived so close that I could be scrambling into clothes in my room, hear the 10 minute warning bell for first period, and still make it class on time. And on hot summer nights, when I slept with my window open, I could hear the boing-clunk of the high dive as someone braver than I climbed the fence and went for a swim.

There was a 15-high foot wall around the pool, topped with about another 6 feet of chain link fence. But the design of the wall had this diagonal pillars that were perfect for scrambling up, like walking up a tilted palm tree for the cocoanuts above. So you scrambled up on the side where the chain link met the side of the boy’s gym, crawled under the bit someone had cut out years ago, and hopped down onto to bleachers.

When I was a kid I would dream about that pool. Apparently I had very dull dreams as a child. But I invested it with all the glories of every poolside oasis you can imagine. Why I thought a high school pool had lounge chairs beach balls, I have no clue. But it my small-town mind it seemed so enticing. And so daring to sneak in.

Imagine my disappointment freshman year when I saw it was just an ugly L-shaped pool surrounded by cracked concrete and smelling highly of chlorine that always needed to be changed. The high dive, however, was infinitely higher in person. Terrifyingly high. Empire State Building High. It would be impossible for anyone to go off that thing and live. You’d have to be Evel Kinevel.

For four years of high school I endured freezing first period swims when the pool hadn’t been heated all weekend. I shivered in the lukewarm showers after. I ran to second period with wet hair, smelling all bleachy from the pool. And I never went off the high dive. Me? No way. In spite of rampaging hormones and my perpetual lack of a boyfriend, I didn’t have a death wish. Oh sure I’d seen people dive and live. But they were miraculous people. Cheerleaders. Football players. Girls with breasts. Boys without acne. The kind of kids who always run out of pages in their yearbooks for people to sign. The indestructibles.

But I was a fringe kid, and fringe kids are always delicate. We do not survive jumps off the high dive. I know, because my mother, the Queen of Doom, told me. “Don’t jump off the high dive, it’ll kill you.” Gee, thanks mom. Way to boost the confidence there.

Of course in my senior year, emboldened by a stole bottle of Boone’s Farm Apple Wine and egged on by my best friends, I clambered up the slanted pillars, climbed under the fence, jumped onto the bleachers, walked with trembling legs to the high dive and started up the ladder. I climbed for a month and a half. And then I stood there for another month and a half. Babies were conceived in the time I stood there. We got a new mayor. I grew my hair out a full 2 inches. My friends went away to college and got majors.

You could see my house from up there, which made it worse. I knew it was too far to my mom to see any features on the fool kid about to drown herself. But with mom radar, I couldn’t be entire sure that she was’t aware. Stupidly, I waved. Like what? I thought th chimney might bow down and bless my last stupid act on the planet. I a\imagined the police and maybe a clergyperson or two coming to break the news. Mom clutching her apron and weeping into the Kleenex she always had up her sleeve; her paroxysms of grief lessened by her ability to add “I told her if she went off the high dive she’d die and I was right! Wasn’t I right? I’m right and she’s dead.” Great fun for her, no so much for everyone listening to. Meanwhile my dad would wander vaguely around the house, looking at family photos in the hopes of putting a face to this supposedly thoughtless dead daughter that he cannot quite, at this minute, picture.

But, alas, the joyous speculation about how my funreal goal (I really wanted a horse and carriage) I knew I had to do something and do it soon. Why? Because I really needed to pee and I was determined NOT to climb down that ladder,. That struck me as the nadir of loserville, climbing up Everest and then come slinking down the ladder of shame while your friends laugh and snap Polaroids that prove you wussied out.

So I stood for a couple of minutes more. Our country invaded some other country. My friends in college had already graduation and had two kids I’d hope one was name after me so that at least my would be remembered,

I took a my last huge lunful of sweet, well chlorieney, air walked with as much bravado as 17 year old can muster, and jumped.

And, what do you know? Mom was wrong.

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